Hawaii Travel

Lanai is Hawaii’s most underrated island

A (mostly) empty, beautiful island far away from hordes of tourists

Lana’i is a tiny island with a low population owned by an eccentric billionaire. It has all the characteristics of a destination housing a supervillain lair. It’s also one of the best and least well-known “outer islands” of Hawaii to visit for a tranquil, enlightening journey (mostly) free from tourists. If your idea of a Hawaiian vacation is adventuring across paradise without being bothered, this is the spot for you.

Lanai has a population of 3,102 people, so don’t go there expecting a lot of shopping and restaurants. The island has one restaurant and one convenience store. It’s a place you go to escape. The perfect spot for a friend vacation. And if you do like we did it, it will be one of the best vacations of your life.

Everything immediately goes wrong

We leave for Lanai on a friends trip with me, my girlfriend at the time, and my best friends Tim, Will, and Jon, and two of our friend Mar and Kelsie. We planned on camping the entire weekend instead of booking an AirBnB or hotel because:

  • The only hotel is the Four Seasons and we aren’t rich
  • There were no AirBnBs. Again, there are 3,000 people on the island.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, there was no REI over there so we had to bring all of our camping gear on the plane. Thankfully, T is in the military and gets one free checked bag on Hawaiian Airlines. We put over 100 lbs. of shit in that bag including a grill, sleeping bags, tents, lanterns, everything for a 7 person camping trip. It was so big it looked like a dead body and weighed just as much.

There were two remaining flights that day, ours and one to Kauai. We get on a mostly empty plane and are giddy with excitement for our adventure. Spirits are sky high. Then we land and go to baggage claim. We wait maybe 20 minutes until the realization sets in. Our big bag full of campaign gear, everything we need, is not coming.

Hawaiian Airlines had a 50/50 chance to put our bag on the right flight even if they blindly guessed and they still fucked it up. We’re distraught, but spirits remained high. When you’re on vacation and things go a little wrong, you get pissed. Yet when everything falls apart, you just kind of accept it. What else could we do other than laugh?

It gets worse

We head to “town” to pick up our rental cars. Tim opted to rent them from a local guy.

We pull up to the address the guy gave us and see two Jeeps. One that looks ready to go, and one that looks like it’s been in a warzone. The front end is bashed in, it has a broken headlight and the windshield is cracked. We then meet the owner of the Jeeps, an older, bearded, stereotypical white hippie in Hawaii who informs us that only one car was ready, his friend hit a deer with the other one that morning. Perfect.

Murphy’s law is in full effect now. We have one Jeep for 7 people, nowhere to sleep, no camping gear, and now we have to wait for this guy to duct tape our other Jeep together so we can drive it to who the fuck knows where.

The guy who hit the deer was a friend of the hippie man and owner of the only restaurant in town. He felt bad so he offered to let us hang out at said restaurant until the Jeep was fixed.

We sit at a table on the outdoor patio of this restaurant and proceed to drink and listen to music on our Bluetooth speaker. We all banded together around how mean God/the universe was being and tried to predict what terrible thing would happen next. It was a genuinely great time.

Sadly, the only photo I have of that night. I just noticed my fly is open.

The sun started setting and the locals came to hang out around the restaurant, probably confused as to why these drunk white people were listening to Taylor Swift (Jon’s favorite artist) and chugging Bud Lights. Right after sundown, the Jeep was ready and we had (kind of) figured things out.

Here were our two options:

  • There was a guest house from one of M’s friends down the street where cats usually slept that some of us could stay in. Again, cats lived in this house.
  • We had one tent left that the rest of us could squeeze in but nowhere to camp.

Face with this Sophie’s choice, me, Ashley, Tim, and Will chose camping. Jon, Mar, and Kels went to the litter box. We map our way to the beach by the Four Seasons and pray we can camp there.

We get lost twice, finally arrive late at night and our luck finally turns, the beach isn’t gated off and is perfect for camping. The sand is groomed and spotless and the bathrooms are really nice. As we drunkenly set up the tent I get in a fight with the GF because that’s how camping works when you’re in a relationship. I pass out with all of my clothes on and a hoodie for a blanket, unsure of what to think after our ridiculous experience.

The Manele golf course is heaven on Earth

Manele golf course
The 4th tee box. Notice how there’s nobody around

Click here to read my post on Manele Bay and how me and the homies should have never been allowed on that course.

Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo)

garden of the god Lanai
Offroading to the garden of the gods in Lanai Hawaii

After drinking enough to get alcohol poisoning during golf then sleeping in a tent on the beach for the second night in a row, the dudes were exhausted. But it was no time for complaining, we needed to put these Jeeps to use.

We split into two groups and then set off for the Garden of the Gods, a landscape of red rock, mud, and grass that slightly resembles Mars. To get there we needed to do some intense offroading that took us through the woods, into muddy creeks, and down treacherous, rocky trails. We cranked up the classic rock playlist and pretended we knew what we were doing.

Compilation – Excuse my annoying yelling

Tim decided it was smarter to ride with the doors and roof off to get the “true experience”. This is them halfway through the trip.

Garden of the gods Lanai, Hawaii
Turns out you need a roof

We got to the Garden of the Gods and enjoyed the top for about an hour. It’s really beautiful but there’s not a whole lot to do up there or many places to hang out since it’s all mud and rocky terrain.

The smart Jeep passengers
Garden of the gods
View of the top
Garden of the gods summit
Ocean view of the top

I also got this photo of Tim that looks like the cover of a country album.

Garden of the gods
Tim looking majestic in Lanai, Hawaii

I got bored so I turned it into an actual album cover.

God Bless America

We made it to the end of the off-roading trail and were greeted by a beautiful, deserted beach.

On an island in the sun

Beach on Lanai
This photo took 100 attempts

We get to the north shore of Lanai and there is nobody there. There’s a pristine beach with miles of visibility and we’re the only ones around. We could do whatever we wanted. Run around naked, scream horrible things, openly poop on the sand etc.

We didn’t actually do any of these things, but we could have. Instead, we constructed a makeshift grill with some rocks and a starter log then ate lunch. Against all odds, the food was exceptional.

Lanai, Hawaii beach
Nobody around for miles
Tim cookin’ up
Gang gang
Lunch Lanai, Hawaii
Lunch on the private beach
Lanai, Hawaii
Will on the private beach

We had also been drinking a little bit at this point so Will tried to do some stunts and ended up compressing his spinal column. I got it in slo-mo, you’re welcome.

What was he even trying to do?

Party’s over

I would write about the rest of the day but I can sum it up with “we drove back, washed up, and flew home”. There’s not a lot of humor or drama I can wring out of that even if I wanted to.

I didn’t expect to have nearly as much fun as we did and I would recommend Lanai to anybody visiting (or living) in Hawaii that wants to go on an adventure that’s out of the ordinary.

What started off as a nightmare quickly turned into one of the top 5 weekends I’ve had since I’ve been here. Take a chance, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Migos, play us out.

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